Tag Archives: Organic Farming

My Fresh Farmhand Friend

By: Colleen

There’s a new member of the motley crew that sleeps under the roof of the Slattery homestead in Middle Ridge, Wisconsin.  My good friend and compatriot, Killian Beeler, recently drove up from hot and dusty Texas to dig in the muddy Wisconsin fields (and believe me, with all of the recent rain, mud is all we have!) with me for the month of June.  I sat down with him after day one on the farm to get his initial impressions of life on the farm.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself!

A: Well, I’m a handsome, young…ha, ha, I’m just kidding, just kidding!  I’m a 20 year old, Catholic male, single (playful laugh).  But seriously, I’m from Texas, and I go to the University of Dallas with Colleen.  I like a nice pair of slacks (another laugh).  I enjoy history, politics, music, and playing bass guitar.

Q: Why did you choose to come to work on Sweet Ridge Farm?

A: Well, I really like the area; I think it’s very pretty.  I enjoy the Amish culture that permeates the area.  I am very interested in the idea of a society based on agriculture, so I came here to get a small idea of what it is like.

Q: What has your initial impression been of life on the farm, Slattery style?

A: It’s great!  I have already managed to meet Amish families, trim blackberry bushes, and plant and learn about shallots.  The experience really does go beyond my expectations so far.

Q: Why are you interested in farming?

A: I believe that a healthy, ordered society should make and know, to some degree at least, the food that it consumes.  When it becomes disconnected from the complex process behind the production of what it comes into contact every day, there are real problems.  In other words, Monsanto sucks!

Q: What are your expectations for your stay?

A: To enjoy the summer, work out in the fields, and enjoy evenings spent reading in the company of great people.

Well, Killian, I am quite certain that you will enjoy your stay on Sweet Ridge Farm, if I have anything to say about it.  Welcome to the great State of Wisconsin, my friend!


The Red Vegetable From Hell

By: Clare

Today I went to hell and back, riding on a red vegetable. I’m serious. I think its going to go down in history as one of the worst days of my life.

For who knows what reason, we don’t have school today. For most kids, this is a good thing, but in our family it means spending the day doing fieldwork. Sure enough, Mom woke me up at the break of dawn (it was actually around 8:30 or so) to head out to the field for a “quick, easy job”. Then I found myself heading out to the field a mile away to pick swiss chard in the freezing cold. It had actually frosted over, and stupid me had decided I would be just fine in my Adidas sandals, no socks necessary. After all, its supposed to be a quick job, right? Wrong. When Dad says a quick job, its gonna take you at least 45 minutes. Give or take a little. My feet went numb after approximately two seconds, and we were out there for forever. But I didn’t complain once, which I was very proud of, because some certain people in the family (everyone) is convinced I’m not the best field hand. I am when I want to be. Which isn’t often. Then, just when I thought we were done, we went home with a whole wagonful of swiss chard and were told to start bunching it. This is the bad part. This is the part where Gary plays his country music and I decide to rip my brain out of my head. Well, we didn’t have the right ties for the swiss chard, so Dad got upset and started yelling and sighing and mumbling incoherent phrases, then just went ahead and started bunching them with the wrong ties. This doubled our work because once we had the right ties we had to take off the wrong ties and put on the right ones and do everything else that you do when working with swiss chard. In the freezing cold. Soaking the vegetables in really, really cold water. Not to mention how disorganized the whole system was, because, hey, my dad’s Irish, not German. He doesn’t always make up the most organized plans.

Have I mentioned how much I hate this vegetable? I’ve actually decided that its stalk is so red because they grow it in hell. In the middle of all this work I figured we were just harvesting all the chard so the devil could feast on it.

At one point James and Patrick got into a fight, because Pat is a big bully. He beat James up pretty badly, and managed to hurt to his shoulder quite a bit. James’ shoulder is already in pretty bad condition, and Pat should have known better to hurt someone’s shoulder, because he himself had to get surgery on both his shoulders, and his faulty shoulders actually pretty much ended his basketball career. This halted the swiss chard bunching, because Mom had to come in and give Pat a piece of her mind, with Mary telling her that she shouldn’t have to deal with all that boy stuff, and where was Dad when you need him? I innocently suggested we should go to the library today, because that always calms down our book-loving family.

I myself had to do twice the work my brother had to, because James and Gary got to run off and pick something up for Dad, leaving me in the barn, freezing, deeply contemplating whether or not I should stab myself with the knife I was using on the chard. That poor swiss chard. I was viciously twisting and crunching and cutting it up. Better to take my anger out on a vegetable than a family member, eh?

Then James got back and got to lolligag around listening to his iPod, and I didn’t get to listen to any music being that I do not own an iPod. At that moment, I would have preferred listening to country than listening to nothing. Then I could have turned my rage towards the singers who thought singing about beer and barns, and lowering their intelligence level made them country.

I will never marry, or even like an organic farmer. They’re all idiots.

Now, I’m off to the library. Maybe that’ll stop the smoke pouring out of my ears.

Through The Seasons

By: Mary

Today I mulled over the changing seasons while clearing a garden bed that I had used to do a test variety plot for the University of Madison. This is the second year in which I have worked with UWM testing plant breeds and collecting data. They are collaborating with the USDA on this project which is being conducted in four growing regions of the US. With that aside, the clearing of vegetation made me think of how rapidly the seasons have switched from spring to summer, and now into autumn. I am lucky that my dell is loaded with many pictures of beautiful evidence of the growing season. Let’s start with early spring….

Isn’t the world so wonderful in spring? This picture was taken in the month of May as my Dad heads out to harvest asparagus. Asparagus is the first and one of the most appreciated crops that we grow. It is the icing on the cake to the brand new season. Or at least a delicacy in a skillet fried with bacon grease.

Here are a few of us siblings in June. When this picture was taken, we were challenging each other to a race before going to the cilantro crop for a pre-harvest thinning. It looks lovely doesn’t it? What you don’t see is that  dirt clods were thrown, arguments broke out about 8 times, and it is probable that bickering came up about who could drive the tractor, who was the most lazy worker, and who got the great privilege of lying prostrate on the hood of the van as it swerved over bumpy clay field roads.

Here are Raph, Colleen, and I. Please note that Clare and James are not in this photo. Sometimes they have a tendency to just vanish from a project. They have taught me that some people need water breaks that last 25 minutes. Clare has also taught me that she associates harvesting Swiss Chard with hell because she hates it so much, and because chard is the color red. Gosh, the agricultural things one learns from a 14 years old!

Just because the summer has passed, doesn’t mean it’s time to put our boots up. September and October and the most busy months around here.

Early in the morning while the dew is still wet on the leaves and weeds, there is work to be done. These photos were taken this very morning while harvesting kale.

I hope you readers all enjoyed this photo essay of the changing of the seasons. If you have any questions or comments about agriculture or agricultural procedures, please direct them to Clare Slattery. I am sure she would be more than happy to answer them, or even help you out in your garden if you are in close local proximity to Sweet Ridge Farm.

Sincerely, mary